I'm a safe driver; too safe, if you ask my wife. There's only one thing that's ever caused me to slam my brakes: red-light cameras.
Connecticut legislators have proposed three bills legalizing the use of cameras at traffic lights in larger cities and towns. All three bills are before the General Assembly's Committee on Transportation for discussion. The purpose of the laws are to give municipalities with more than 30,000 or 48,000 people, depending on the bill, the authority to install cameras at intersections and ticket drivers who commit traffic infractions.
Last May, legislators tried to garner support for a similar bill that cleared two committees but fizzled out at the end of the legislative session. Supporters think it's necessary to stop red-light-runners and other bad driving, while opponents think it's a Big Brother-style invasion of privacy.
I think cameras at intersections are just plain dangerous and the evidence agrees with me.
I just moved to Connecticut from St. Petersburg, Fla., where they installed such cameras a few years ago. They thought it would increase safety. In reality, they did the exact opposite, and that's why Connecticut should forget all this stuff about red-light cameras.
Studies and experience offer plenty of evidence.
A significant number of municipalities that implemented red-light cameras have stopped using them. Last December, Collier County, Florida, canceled its program after five years. In February, St. Petersburg, Fla., put a moratorium on the cameras due to inaccurate ticketing and complaints from voters that yellow lights are too short. In Trenton, N.J., a state Department of Transportation study revealed that red-light cameras caused the number of accidents at two dozen intersections to go up from 577 crashes the year before they were installed to 582 the year following installation.
A 2008 study (that was updated in 2011) from the University of South Florida found that red-light cameras increased crashes by 28 percent. Rochester, N.Y., just halted its red-light ticketing program for review due to software glitches.
Red-light cameras are supposed to reduce crashes, not cause them. Red-light cameras are supposed to accurately ticket the right person, not get it wrong. People are so scared of getting a ticket that they screech to a halting stop when the light turns yellow. Some people are getting tickets for other people's violations. At a time when towns, cities, and counties are canceling their programs due to increased accidents and technical problems, it would be madness for Connecticut to follow in their footsteps.
There's a bunch of chitter-chatter from the American Civil Liberties Union that cameras are an invasion of privacy. It's Orwellian, I'll concede that, but every lawyer knows that drivers don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy while driving in the middle of the road, and further, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy while committing crimes, a la infractions.
I'm a supporter of the ACLU and all, but to quote Vice President Joe Biden, "that's a bunch of malarkey." There is an expectation of privacy in your house, your bathroom — the government shouldn't go there — but people aren't entitled to keep their license plates private from state-operated cameras at traffic intersections.
The only guaranteed benefit of the red-light cameras is to generate money by issuing tickets for red-light violations and, as a result, bring in revenue for cities in a down economy where property values are depressed and cities are struggling with severe budget cuts.
Funding the government through red-light cameras, like a de facto tax, is not a good reason to install cameras.
Evidence based studies have shown that they are not safer. It actually shows the opposite: They cause more accidents. They cause rear-end collisions. That should be the end of the discussion.
Noah Kores,29, is a lawyer in Torrington.
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